Maori Connections

Of Ngàti Wàhiao, Te Arawa, and Pàkehà descent, Maggie Papakura had a revered ancestry and was therefore raised by senior members of her mother’s family and educated in Màori knowledge and customs during her most impressionable years. From the age of nine she was educated in English, and developed a love of literature as well as a distinctive and elegant writing style. She worked as hostess and guide at Whakarewarewa, guiding the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York during their 1901 visit. In the early 1900s she formed a choir and later a concert party, and in 1910 the group set out for Sydney and London for the coronation festivities of King George V.  In 1907 Richard Staples-Browne, an eminent biologist, of Oddington Grange was visiting Rotorua, New Zealand when he met Maggie Papakura, also known as Makeriti. In 1912 she married Richard and moved to Oddington, taking with her a carved house from Whakarewarewa, along with artefacts and ornaments which would enable her to describe all aspects of traditional Màori life. In 1924 she settled at Oxford University and began to assemble her material to document Màori life and customs. She established quite a salon with her beautiful Màori taonga, and regularly hosted colonial scholars.

In 1926 Makereti Papakura returned to her family in Whakarewarewa to check her manuscript notes with the kaumatua, ready to complete a thesis for a Bachelor of Science. However, just weeks before her thesis examination in 1930, she died. Her work, The Old Time Màori, was published posthumously and remains a significant scholarly reference source, illuminating the knowledge from a Màori perspective. Makereti charmed all who met her by her scholarship, curiosity, and willingness to share her heritage.

Maggie died on 16 April 1930 and although her family’s wish was that her body should be returned for burial at Rotorua they honoured her wish that she be buried in the churchyard at Oddington. It has been a great privilege for the people of Oddington to tend her grave and to welcome all those who come here to pay homage.

At St Andrew’s, Maggie commissioned a memorial to the Maori servicemen who had lost their lives in the Great War.

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